CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- Elements of Naval Medical Forces Pacific (NMFP) recently travelled to Okinawa prefecture, Japan, and began participation in exercise Keen Sword 23 (KS23), Nov. 12.
Keen Sword 23 is a biennial, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command-scheduled, and U.S. Pacific Fleet-sponsored field training exercise (FTX). The joint/bilateral FTX runs through Nov. 20. KS23 is designed to enhance Japan-U.S. combat readiness and interoperability while strengthening bilateral relationships and demonstrating U.S. resolve to support the security interests of allies and partners in the region.
As a feature of this year’s Keen Sword, NMFP deployed a small headquarters element from Naval Base San Diego, and Expeditionary Medical Facility (EMF) 150-Alpha, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., to support medical-related exercise scenarios at Camp Foster, Marine Corps Base S.D. Butler.
During KS23, NMFP’s command and control concept will test Navy Medicine’s joint and bilateral integration with a Japan Ground Self Defense Force medical base in Okinawa, III Marine Expeditionary Force units, and other Navy units to refine interoperability with partners in the region.
“Keen Sword is a tremendous opportunity for our Navy Medicine team to exercise a new medical command and control concept in support of the operational forces,” said Rear Adm. Guido F. Valdes, commander, NMFP. “Additionally, our deployed EMF in Keen Sword is a concrete example that we are a key component in providing deployable health services that enable strengthening alliances and partnerships.”
Expeditionary medical facilities are globally positioned to support combat operations, contingencies, and exercises worldwide. An EMF can be pre-positioned and lay dormant until called upon; or deployed with a unit from a staging base.
Okinawa hosts a prepositioned facility, one of five, that can accommodate a deployed scalable EMF.
The EMF is a platform of Navy Medicine and has a three-part mission:
• Provide health-service support to military operations involved in medical stability as expeditionary advanced-based functional components.
• Deploy as part of the fleet commander’s projection ashore to support geographical combatant commanders’ theater plans policies.
• Provide medical capability ashore in situations where a sustained land campaign is envisioned for a Marine Expeditionary Force, or for limited contingencies involving naval forces.
Recently, EMF-150, as part of Commander, Task Force 75, deployed to Guam in 2020 and played an important role in the DoD’s response to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
"In Keen Sword, EMF-150-Alpha will provide a forward-deployed theater hospitalization capability as requested by the Component/Combatant Commander in support of operational forces,” said Navy Capt. Elizabeth Smith, commanding officer, EMF 150-Alpha, which is part of Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Camp Pendleton, NMFP. “EMF leaders participated early in the exercise planning process and refined the requirement to provide the lightest, leanest capability possible while still meeting the requirement and capacity to enable increased survivability for all U.S. and Allied partners."
Military medical platforms are classified by the Military Health System roles of care to describe battlefield medical and health capabilities.
The military organizes health-service support capability across the theater of operations, communications zone, and home station to provide medical care from Roles 1-4.
Role-4 capability represents the most definitive medical care available, such as those provided by U.S. and overseas-based military medical treatment facilities.
The EMF is a Role-3 theater hospitalization capability, which includes everything from surgery, ancillary services, holding capabilities, and specialty services like neuro, urology, and even OB-GYN if the mission requires.
These assets usually act in a general support role to an entire theater vice a single unit.
Role-1 units are usually a direct support capability supporting their owning unit, while Role-2 units can function in a general support or direct support role.
“This exercise provides an opportunity to further operationalize Navy Medicine platforms under a new medical command and control concept to provide the right care, at the right time, under any conditions," said Smith.
Naval Medical Forces Pacific provides oversight for 10 NMRTCs, on the West Coast and Pacific Rim that man, train, and equip medical forces, primarily in military treatment facilities. NMFP also oversees eight research laboratories that deliver cutting edge health and medical research to enhance the deployment readiness and survivability of our Joint Forces.